Ouran High School Host Club, vol. 11-12
Story and Art by Bisco Hatori
Translation by Masumi Matsumoto
Original Japanese edition: Hakusensha, 2007-2008
978-1-4215-2255-5 (vol. 11)
978-1-4215-2672-0 (vol. 12)
Anyone who has read enough high school shōjo knows there are a few plots that are almost guaranteed to show up in any given series. There’s Valentine’s Day and White Day, along with the obligatory school festivals and exams. In volumes 11 and 12 of Ouran High School Host Club, Bisco Hatori puts her own unique spin on two of these plots–the sports festival and the class trip. Lucky for us, she finds plenty of ways to make her tellings stand out from the crowd.
The characters who really shine in these two volumes are Kaoru, Hikaru, and Kyoya. Their characterization here really exemplifies something I talked about in my Manga Life review of volumes 9 and 10: Hatori’s ability to take her characters from one-note jokes to complex individuals. Back in volume 1, Hatori made fun of her own typecasting when she introduced the host club members. Everyone was straight from central casting: Kyoya was the smooth megane, while Kaoru and Hikaru were The Twins. But here in volumes 11 and 12, we get to see Kyoya losing some of his polish, and Kaoru and Hikaru acting very much as individuals. It is excellent.
Readers who don’t care for these characters may find these volumes a bit of a slog, because the focus does move away from the obvious leads, Haruhi and Tamaki, for long stretches of time. One critique I have frequently seen of shōjo series, in fact, is that many of them focus on the angst of the male characters at the expense of the female lead (why hello, Kare Kano!), and I think you could to some extent apply that critique to Ouran. Haruhi does spend much of these two volumes being a catalyst for other characters’ growth, rather than growing herself. But it doesn’t bother me too much here, partly because I am excessively fond of the three characters in question and partly because end of volume 12 suggests that the next arc will be very Haruhi-centric.
And I love how Hatori never loses her sense of fun. Even when she is breaking my heart with an emotionally fraught conversation between two characters, she is still making me laugh out loud with all the little jokes she includes in passing. This is often a very busy manga, with lots of words and panels on a given page, but it definitely rewards those who take the time to read everything. The jokes never stop coming.
While I won’t make a silly claim that this series is for everybody–that’s not true of even the best series–I would encourage those who bounced off the series during the first couple volumes to give it another chance if they normally like this type of shōjo. Ouran High School Host Club is definitely a series that improves as it goes on, and Hatori’s best, once she reaches it, is very good indeed.